Office of Economic Development | 101 Industrial Road Choctaw, MS 39350 | 601.656.5251 |

Choctaw Tribe Prepares to ‘Hack the Future’


Laying the Groundwork for a New Innovation

Ecosystem on the Choctaw Reservation


On July 13-15, 2018, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, in collaboration with California-based innovation firm 7th Future, will present Hack the Future: Between Earth & Sky, the first-ever Hackathon on the Choctaw Indian Reservation and in the region.

Hack the Future will bring together a hundred participants ages 16-26 for a long weekend of immersive learning and friendly competition, offering talks from entrepreneurs from around the world, access to cutting-edge technologies, hands-on coding, pitching, and creative workshops, and no shortage of caffeine-fueled hacking. What makes the Hackathon format unique is that it provides learning not just through listening, but through doing. Participants will form teams of no more than 5 and engage in a product development cycle compressed into a weekend: generating ideas, developing prototypes, “iterating” on their prototypes using the agile methodology, and then pitching their solutions to a panel of expert judges as they compete for $10,000 worth of prizes. No better training exists for developing real-world entrepreneurial skills.

The challenges that the teams will respond to with their prototype solutions are in answer to specific challenges set by industry partners Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company, and Sandia National Labs, framed around the themes of UAV manufacturing and applications. The teams will have access to cutting-edge Augmented Reality and IoT technologies for use in their prototyping efforts.

With the Hack the Future project, the Tribe is leading the effort to create a vibrant new innovation ecosystem in central Mississippi that brings local businesses, academia, and government infrastructure together to leverage the power of cutting-edge technologies.

Chief Phyliss Anderson said, “Hack the Future is an important vehicle for developing entrepreneurial skills, building greater confidence, and encouraging long-term thinking in our younger generations. This initiative fundamentally supports our capacity to innovate, which leads to greater tribal self-determination and economic resilience. But here in the home of our ancestors, our innovation ecosystem won’t be just like Silicon Valley, because we are embodying an Indigenous Futurism mindset that honors our traditions while embracing innovation and technology.”

Development Director James Robinson said, “We understand that technological change doesn’t diminish the total number of jobs – it actually increases them – but it changes the nature of work. In order to participate and thrive in an increasingly innovation-driven jobs environment, a new set of skills is required. Hackathons provide an invaluable tool for developing the most important skills for the next-generation economy. The Hack the Future series will not only be a platform for our youth, it will also make us a stronger partner to local industry by developing regional innovation capacity and networks.”

Headline speakers include Amy Fredeen, Executive Vice President at Cook Inlet Tribal Council, best-selling author and international Iroquois arts teacher Beckah Krahula, game industry veteran and Co-Founder and President of E-Line Media and Former Studio Head at Activision and Chairman, Games for Change Alan Gershenfeld, Aurora Flight Sciences leadership, Sandia National Labs cybersecurity expert and Washoe tribal member Curtis Keliiaa, and international health and wellness expert and Founder/CEO of Future Health, Thurston Pym.

The Hackathon aims to inspire and includes an interactive VR Gallery featuring indigenous and innovation-focused virtual reality experiences, and NASA’s Stennis Space Center will present shows in a mobile planetarium.

A range of local education institutions, tech heavy hitters, and ecosystem partners are supporting the Hackathon including East Mississippi Community College, Mississippi State University, Choctaw Central High School, Pearl River Resort, NASA, Unity, Baker Tilly, Qualex, A&E Interactive Touch, Everi, and the Central Electric Power Association.

The Hackathon coincides with the Choctaw Indian Fair, the most important cultural event of the year on the Reservation, as well as the Stickball World Championships, which MBCI have hosted for the last 69 years.

Participants can apply to attend at the Hack the Future website:



The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has been a leader in our region’s economic development for over 40 years. As one of the United States' original first nations, we’re the only federally recognized American Indian tribe living in Mississippi, with 11,000 members in ten counties. We’re one of Mississippi’s five largest private employers, with approximately 5,000 employees—both Tribal members and non-members.

Today’s economic development challenges require a much higher level of innovation and partnership.  The Tribe is leading the effort to create a vibrant new ecosystem to bring together local and regional businesses, academia, and government infrastructure to leverage the power of cutting-edge technologies.


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